World’s First Solar-Geothermal Hybrid Plant Online
The world’s first hybrid geothermal-solar plant is now online in Nevada. The plant, built by Enel Green Power North America, integrates the two technologies, each one with its own set of advantages, to produce sustainable energy more efficiently. Amongst the other factors in favour of this pioneering approach are cost savings from a shared infrastructure and transmission connection and smaller environmental footprint per unit of energy produced and delivered. The significant advantages of this new technology inspire optimism and more than a few believe in Stillwater’s success and that the first of its kind won’t be also the last.
Enel Green Power is a Spanish-owned company with a 7079 MW renewable energy portfolio, and 650 facilities around the world in solar, wind, biomass and hydroelectric, including 1000 MW in North America, over 70 projects. Last year Enel start working on yet another project in North America, combining solar and geothermal at its Stillwater Geothermal plant in Churchill, County, Nevada (one of the two geothermal plants in the world that use large scale electric submersible pumps to extract geothermal fluid, which minimise water use). The project received a very positive response by the public and also the officials, as Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, who, back in 2011, called it “an incredible new technology that can be used across the country”.
Now the world’s first hybrid geothermal-solar plant is finally a reality and the new approach is already showing great potential. Combining geothermal and solar and making the two technologies work together takes advantage of each their strengths, better satisfying the electricity demand of the communities it serves. From the 56 Megawatts potential of the power plant, 26 MW come from solar panels, which produce electricity during the peak hours, when the efficiency of the geothermal unit is at its lowest, and vice versa. And there are also other benefits to this new technology.
One of these benefits comes in the form of cost savings from a shared infrastructure and transmission connection. So the Stillwater hybrid power plant not only has a bigger production potential, but also the electricity it produces is cheaper than that produced in two separate and independent geothermal and solar plants.!m(/uploads/story/31/thumbs/solargeothermal_inline.png)
Another advantage is that there is a smaller environmental footprint per unit of renewable energy produced and delivered, which is important for the local communities and the local ecosystem.
The geothermal unit has been a part of Enel’s portfolio since 2009 and the newly-built solar unit consists of 89,000 solar PV panels on an adjacent 240 acres.
The Stillwater plant’s usage of large scale electric submersible pumps to extract geothermal fluid, combined with the plant’s binary process means that no water is used and there are no emissions produced. This makes the power plant almost completely environment-friendly.
The future will show whether the Stillwater project is going to prove Mr. Chu right and the new technology will be deployed widely across the United States. But for now the combined power of solar and geothermal is ready to serve the local communities of Nevada.
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